God’s Intimate Knowledge of Us

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In Psalm 139 in today’s Bible reading* we see a powerful statement of God’s intimate knowledge of us.

David begins the Psalm acknowledging that God has already searched him and known him. The word search, “can refer to the initial phases of a search or the end result, but always connotes a diligent, difficult probing.[1] The word know, “is … used for the most intimate acquaintance.[2] He concludes the Psalm with the same Hebrew words. In verses 2-3, in classic Hebrew poetry form, David uses synonyms for search and know.

Next, David says that God formed his inward parts (also translated as heart, the word literally means “kidneys”). As a shepherd, David was probably well aware of the internal organs of sheep, and by extension, humans. He says that God wove him together in his mother’s womb. This word has the idea of hemming in. He says he was fearfully made. This word has to do with inspiring fear and awe. He says he was wonderfully made. This word conveys the idea of individuality. David knows that there is no one exactly like him.

In Psalm 139:15-16, David goes into detail about his physical body. The word frame means bones. He says he was intricately woven together. This word is used for embroidery. This refers to his veins, arteries, ligaments, and tendons. In verse 16, he says that God saw his unformed substance. This Hebrew word literally means embryo. He says that his days were numbered. David knew that God had intimate knowledge of his life from the womb to the tomb.

Verse 17 could be translated in either of two ways. One concerns David’s thoughts about God. He treasures God highly as he ponders his Creator. The other way to translate verse 17 concerns the thoughts that God has about David. God knows him intimately and thinks deeply about David. Either translation is valid.

The next four verses are imprecatory prayers[3] toward his enemies where he asks God to judge them.

At the end of the Psalm, David invites God to search him and know him. He invites God to know him most intimately. It seems that after praying these harsh prayers regarding God’s destruction of his enemies, he wants God to show him if his motives for praying these prayers are wrong. We must ensure that our attitudes are God-centered as we pray imprecatory prayers.

[1] Wolf, Herbert. “729 חָקַר.” Ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament 1999: 318. Print.
[2] Harris, R. Laird, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, eds. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament 1999 : 366. Print.
[3] I have written elsewhere about imprecatory prayers. You can read those posts here and here.


In Psalm 139, David lays out a convincing argument for the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death. He talks about God’s knowledge of him as an embryo. He talks about God’s active involvement in designing and creating his organs, bones, circulatory system, and connective tissues.

The application of this argument touches on issues like abortion, euthanasia, suicide, and capital punishment. Every human being is created in God’s image from conception. The Bible is consistent in its treatment of innocent human life and that God alone has the right to give and take life. The Bible records the suicide death of several individuals as they struggled with the depths of despair of their lives. However, suicide is never judged with eternal punishment.

However, God approves of the taking of human life in the cases of war against God’s people and a few cases of the death penalty.

Believers should aim to have God’s attitude toward the sanctity of human life and do everything we can to honor and preserve it.

* Chapters covered in today’s reading:
– Psalms 131
– Psalms 138
– Psalms 139
– Psalms 143
– Psalms 144
– Psalms 145

This devotional was originally published on May 18, 2021.

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